Home > Uncategorized > Reason #4 to pick Dr. Grace over Mr. Walters: Respect for the profession

Reason #4 to pick Dr. Grace over Mr. Walters: Respect for the profession

August 15, 2022

I don’t write about education policy because I love politics. I write because I believe that public schools are critical to giving all students the opportunity to realize their full potential and contribute to our society.

The platitudes repeated by groups that favor public schools lose their impact over time, but they have truth behind them. Public schools are available to all children. Public schools reflect the diversity of our communities  – in every imaginable way. Public schools prepare people for responsible citizenship in a democratic society. 

This is why I value great teachers. We can all remember at least one of them who made a difference in our lives. And nothing beats that feeling we get as teachers when our former students come back to tell us about that impact.

If you are a candidate for office, and the job you’re seeing has anything to do with public schools, before I’ll support you, you have to show me that you respect teachers and value public schools. That’s what’s so perplexing about the Ryan Walters candidacy. People I trust tell me he was a good classroom teacher. That makes sense. He was a finalist for state teacher of the year. Then again, I have one of those down the hall from me and two more teaching in my district. 

Learning is hard. Therefore, we know that good teachers have some combination of skill and empathy. If they didn’t, they’d just be rattling off information and accepting that some students learn and some don’t. If Walters was a good teacher, those qualities would be evident, right?

Last week, I ran across a tweet showing a short clip of Walters teaching about the path from Plessy v. Ferguson to the landmark Brown v. Board decision of 1954. It’s embedded below:

In case you can’t watch the video for some reason, I’ll describe it. Over one minute and 16 seconds, Walters mentions the Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) case that established the separate but equal doctrine. He then notes Brown v. Board of Education (1954) which bans segregation in schools. Then he adds that according to psychologists, “when you’re five or six years old, you like dolls that look like you, that’s just part of social development. They brought in some studies that showed that even young black kids in segregated schools wanted the white dolls…”

The account that posted the video added, “Pretty sure some people would consider this to be CRT.” In the comments, he then posted, “That’s the thing about 1775.. it’s open to interpretation. Did this have the capacity of making students feel shame? Absolutely. It’s a purposefully vague law to selectively target school districts.”

From what I can see, there would be no violation of HB 1775 here. Then again, from what I can see, Tulsa and Mustang didn’t violate the law either before the State Board of Education sanctioned them.

Yet Walters ranted and raved. He called for Tulsa’s accreditation to be dinged and the superintendent’s certificate to be revoked. The lesson Walters himself taught to his students describes implicit bias – even if he doesn’t use that phrase. Just because a presenter in Tulsa did say the words shouldn’t automatically move them two notches closer to the precipice of losing their accreditation. 

(BTW: I’m still completely perplexed by what happened to Mustang, and I really just don’t want to get into it here.)

If Walters ever truly had the necessary empathy to be a great teacher, I don’t see it now – not during this campaign. Maybe the guy from the classroom was a character he was playing. Or perhaps this candidate version of him is just an act. Either way, he’s sold out to the highest bidder to call out educators as boogeymen in his false narrative.

Going back to the debate between Walters and Dr. April Grace last week, we heard nothing from him of the great things teachers do every day. That doesn’t fit into the word salad he prefers to spew.

Meanwhile, Dr. Grace continues to talk to parents, educators, and community members about her plans for improving public schools. She’s been a superintendent for six years, and as with any of us, she doesn’t get everyone’s support. Just the same, she’s committed over 30 years to educating children. Unlike her opponent, I’ve never known her to degenerate the work of teachers or the concerns of parents. 

Dr. Grace is wired for servant leadership. Everything about her says, this is an educator. He can just roll along with his vitriol, car videos, and appearances on cable news. Meanwhile, April is going to keep going to the people, listening to their concerns, and letting them see who she is.

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